By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The festering, worsening economic and social crisis has not only resulted in widespread poverty and hunger, worsening social inequities and injustices, but also an alarming increase in cases of violence against women and children. A recent survey involving 42,000 women in all 28 European Union countries revealed the harrowing situation of women in one of the major centers of capitalism and modern civilization and considered as the bastion of liberal politics and human rights.
Consider these shocking findings from the Violence against women: an EU-wide survey|Results at a glance, which was produced by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights:
– Some eight percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in the last 12 months before the survey interview. (The interviews were conducted from April to September 2012.)
– One in three women had experienced some form of physical and/or sexual assault since the age of 15.
– One in 10 women had experienced some form of sexual violence since
the age of 15, and one in 20 women had been raped since the age of 15.
– Of women who are or have been in a relationship with a man, 22 percent have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
– About one in four victims of sexual assault, by either a partner or a non-partner, did not contact the police or any other organisation after the most serious incident because of feelings of shame and embarrassment.
– One in five women had experienced some form of stalking since the age of 15, with 5 percent having experienced it in the 12 months preceding the survey.
– One in 10 women or 11 percent had experienced inappropriate advances on social websites or have been subjected to sexually explicit emails or text (SMS) messages.
– Between 74 percent and 75 percent of women professionals or in top management jobs had experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, and one in four of these women have been confronted with sexual harassment in the 12 months prior to the survey.
– Some 27 percent of women had experienced some form of physical abuse in childhood (before the age of 15) at the hands of an adult.
The situation of women in the Philippines also shows the same trend of abuse and violence. Data collated by the Center for Women’s Resources revealed that:
– Reported violations of RA 9262 or Anti-Violence Against Women and Children increased from 11,531 cases in 2012 to 16,517 in 2013.
– Reported cases of sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, unjust vexation, seduction also increased from 928 in 2012 to 1,489 in 2013.
– The incidences of rape (including incest and attempted rape) also increased from 1,319 in 2012 to 1,602 in 2013. “This means a woman or a child is being victimized every one hour and 21 minutes.”
– The PNP-Women’s Desk revealed that out of the 170 cases of trafficking, 125 victims are children and 45 are women.
Sexual and physical violence against women and children have become a pandemic, so much so that it has affected even the church.
However, these still do not present the whole picture of the oppression and exploitation being suffered by women and children. Gabriela was right in pointing out that aside from the sexual and physical violence women and children experience in relationships and in their immediate environment are the state and institutional violence that are being inflicted on them. And these affect more women and children.
There are the cases of violence committed against women and children in the course of wars of aggression and suppression campaigns. Women and children are highly vulnerable during these times because they are being specifically targeted to break the will and spirit of resistance of oppressed peoples and groups. Examples of these are the comfort women abducted and raped by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Rape during wars has become so prevalent that there is now a campaign to declare the use of rape as an unlawful weapon of war.
Rape and sexual humiliation is also commonly used as a method of torturing women in wars of repression.
And then there is the violence that affects the most number of women and children: poverty. The worsening joblessness, the spikes in prices of basic goods, services and utilities, and the lack of accessible, affordable, basic social services subject the majority of women and children to hunger, and violate their basic right to a decent quality of life. It also makes them vulnerable to sex trafficking by illegal recruiters offering jobs.
Women have been suffering for centuries, since the advent of ‘civilization.’ Women have no choice but to pursue the struggle for justice, freedom, and genuine equality.